Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More Winter Weather

The girls have been cozy in their coop this winter.
We've already had a couple of snow storms
and some unseasonably cold weather
and while they aren't particularly thrilled about being
cooped up
they've been nice and cozy.
But we have some weather headed our way at the end of the week
that has me worried.  
Thursday night has a low of 11*
and Friday has a high of only 16* and a low of 5*.
The girls have never experienced such cold before.
So my New Year's Day will include some cleaning of the coop
and filling it with straw.
I hate winter.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Solstice Already?

Today is the shortest day of the year: the winter solstice. And today I received the first new seed catalog. Spring is almost here! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Apple Harvest

This fall I decided to make applesauce.
I happened upon a recipe that gave instructions
on how to make apple jelly and applesauce all from 
cooking the same apples.  
You'll need about a heaping gallon of peeled and cored apples
(if you have a food mill you don't need to peel and core them just cut them in chunks
and put them through the mill instead of processing them)
Put chopped apples in a large saucepan and add 1 cup of water per heaping quart of apples.
Bring to a boil then cover and simmer until apples are tender
stir occasionally and smash the apples up a little to release more juice.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the apples into another bowl.
You need to leave the juice in the pot.
You may have to pour any juice from the bowl of apples back into the pot.
Next you need to strain the juice.
I used a piece of cheesecloth stretched over a pitcher 
and secured with a rubber band (see above photo)
slowly pour the liquid from the pot through the strainer.
Any bits of apples or apple mush can be added to the bowl of cooked apples.
Measure out how much apple juice you have 
(should be about 4 cups)
Return juice to pot and add:
3 cups sugar
2 TBSP lemon juice
for every 4 cups

Bring to a boil
stir constantly until it gels up
(when it slides off a chilled spoon in one sheet)
Fill sterilized half pint jars with hot apple jelly to within 1/8" of rim
secure the lids and place in a water bath canner for 5 minutes
made about 4 half pints.

Now for the apples....
puree them in a processor
then return the applesauce to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
(add sugar or cinnamon if you want- I don't add anything).
Ladle hot applesauce into sterilized jars
leaving 1/2" headspace
place in hot water bath canner for 20 minutes (pints or quarts)

Remember to use sweet apples.
I used Golden Delicious and Mutsu (aka Crispin) apples
with some red apple varieties thrown in.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Enough Already

We've had some snow,
some ice,
some more snow...
and just when I thought we could get a reprieve
(and I could go out and replace the vehicle that got totaled 
in the above mentioned snow and ice)
we're getting more snow.

I'm ready for the Spring

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallow's Eve

Tonight if you're in the process of making applesauce, maybe try out this form of divination:

Peel the Apple
Girls would peel an apple then throw the peel over their shoulder onto the floor or into a tub of water.  The letter formed by the apple peel was the first initial of the man they would marry.  I tried this once in my youth, but the dog always stole the peel before I could see the initial. I was once told by someone that if you recite the ABC's while twisting the stem on an apple, the letter you're on when the stem comes loose is the initial of the man you'll marry.

Happy Halloween!

If you want to read more about Halloween or read some ghost stories check these out:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just Peachy!

Since I've managed to conquer my fear of canning
I've become a canning fool.
I have scoured canning cookbooks and marked recipes I want to try:
Brandied Apple Rings, Applesauce, 
Mint Jelly
and my famous Chicken Corn Soup
(though I'm still slightly apprehensive about canning meat).
When I went to the local store and saw they had some peaches, 
I grabbed some of those for some jam
(because Big E loves peaches and I love Big E)
The recipe I used was delish!

Vanilla Peach Jam

8 cups peeled and chopped peaches (about 7 large peaches)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp of pure vanilla extract)
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp Bourbon (optional)
Put the peaches, lemon juice and sugar in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven
slice the vanilla beacn in half lengthwise and using the flat side of the knife
scrape out the seeds and place in pot along with the pod
(or dump in 3 tsp of pure vanilla extract like I did)
Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer.
Add the bourbon now if you're using it.
I didn't because I didn't have any
but next time I think I'll try it
(it's supposed to enhance the flavor of the vanilla)
Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours
stirring occasionally
Allow to cool slightly 
then ladle into jelly jars discarding the bean pods.
I canned this in a water bath canning method
for 20 minutes.

This was super easy to make because it didn't require constant stirring or attention
and used only a few ingredients.
It's definitely on the list to make more!
Plus, it made the entire house smell fantastic
and it tasted fantastic as well.
Can't wait to have some on some vanilla ice cream!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

'Tis The Time for Pumpkin Cookies

I decided to bake some pumpkin cookies
for the annual bingo night at my son's school.
It is, after all, pumpkin flavored season. 
Pumpkin cookies baking in the oven
 Bailey laid down ever so innocently 
as though she had no interest 
in what was being placed in the oven to bake.

 Knowing only too well (from experience)
that Bailey will make a beeline
to whatever she can reach on the counter,
I had to make a barricade for the cookies that were cooling.

Golden raisin filled deliciousness.
She's nothing if not predictable!
Here is the recipe for the cookies.
I can't take original credit for them, though.
One of my coworkers used to make them for the annual
Open House he and his wife hosted at their craft store.
I'm not usually a fan of pumpkin things
but I love these cookies.

Bob's Moist Pumpkin Cookies


1/2 C butter                                              2 1/4 C flour                             3/4 C raisins
1 C packed brown sugar                       1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C granulated sugar                         1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 C canned pumpkin                      1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg                                                             1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla                                               1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 F
Beat butter and sugars until creamy, beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla, mix in flour and other dry ingredients, stir in raisins. Drop heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet bake 12-15 minutes, store in an airtight container.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Why Do I Can?

so maybe it's not really the looming Zombie Apocalypse 
that got me canning.
the possibility for some other real life crisis
(natural disaster, power loss, alien invasion...)
I'm not saying I'm a full on prepper
because seriously, I don't think 8 quarts and 6 pints of canned tomatoes,
6 jars of red pepper jelly and 2 quarts of roasted garlic pasta sauce
are going to see me through in the long term.
It's a start, though, and knowing it's there is a little piece of mind.
I also think canning and preserving is a smart economical decision.
Food prices have increased pretty steadily over the past few years
and with that price increase, the quantity has reduced.
So you're getting less for more.
And don't get me started on all the genetically modified food
or the antibiotics and hormones pumped into everything.
(really, and people wonder why kids today are so different than kids of the past??)
 When I can, 
I know what goes in the jar.
I know how it was grown because I grew it.
I grew it from plants or seed that I knew were organic.
And finally, I'd say I have a nostalgia for the simple ways.
I'm not sure why that is since I never grew up on a farm,
and though my mom canned at one time, I don't remember it.
Maybe it comes from my hectic life running from one thing to another
and constantly feeling like I'm spinning.
I want to spend time at home
doing homey domestic things.
I want to pull my family back into 
being a nuclear family.
Spend time together
can together 
eat together.
And survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Talking Turkey

Big E Showed up yesterday morning with a photo of a bunch of turkeys down the road.
Not the neighbors, a real bunch of turkeys.
So we left for our Sunday jaunt in hopes that they would still be around.
They were.
Being the nut I am, I opened the window and stood up so I could get a good photo.
That's when I decided to gobble like a turkey.
They responded immediately.
I did this for several minutes
before another car came and I was forced to get out
and shoo them away from the van
(they had surrounded us at this point).
The Brat Child now thinks we need to go find and capture these turkeys and
keep them as pets.
Check out the video

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bring on Fall

I managed to get all those new falls seeds planted this week.
(Not all by myself- Big E manned the tiller and 
pulled some weeds and 
took care of wedding photographer details. 
I know, he's awesome)
Just in time for some steady rain rain today.
Hoping to can some beets and sauerkraut later this fall.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Fall Seeds

I received my latest order of seeds yesterday and can't wait to get them in the ground. Because I've managed to use my canner and not blow anyone up, I've become adventurous and plan on attempting to make my own sauerkraut. So I have 2 varieties of cabbage to try. I also have Autumn King carrots, Dwarf Curled Scotch Kale, Siberian Dwarf Kale and a beet blend. All these were ordered through Annie's Heirloom Seeds. I wasn't too impressed with the germination of the kale and cabbage seeds I got from Seed Savers so I'm giving this new company a try. Now to talk Big E into building a couple of poly tunnels...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce

When I finally got enough nerve to use my canner,
I picked an adventurous recipe: Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce.
It is amazing.

The recipe makes about 3 quarts or 6 pints.


6 bulbs of garlic
3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 medium red, yellow and/or green sweet peppers cut lengthwise and seeded
12 pounds ripe tomatoes Peeled
(to learn how to peel tomatoes, go here)
3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons kosher salt 
(or 4 teaspoons regular salt)
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves snipped
1 cup lightly packed assorted fresh herbs
(such as oregano, thyme, parsley and/or basil)
6 Tablespoons lemon juice

  • Preheat oven to 400 F
  • Cut off the top (about 1/2 inch) of the garlic bulbs to expose ends of individual cloves
  • Leaving garlic bulb whole, remove any loose papry out layers, place bulbs cut end up in a 1-1 1/2 quart casserole dish
  • Drizzle bulbs with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil cover dish
  • arrange sweet pepper halves cut side down on foil lined baking sheet
  • brush with remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil
  • Roast garlic and peppers for about 40 minutes or until garlic feels soft and peppers are charred
  • Cool garlic in dish on wire rack
  • Bring foil up around peppers and fold edges together to enclose. Let peppers cool 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle Peel off and discard skins chop peppers and set aside.
  •  Remove garlic cloves from paper skins by squeezing the bottoms of the bulbs and place in food  processor.
  • Cut peeled tomatoes into chunks add some of the chunks to the garlic in the processor and process until chopped
  • Transfer chopped garlic and tomatoes to 7-8 quart stainless steel, enamel or non-stick heavy pot.
  • Working in batches repeat chopping the remaining tomatoes in the food processor.
  • Add all the tomatoes to the pot
  • Add brown sugar, salt, vinegar and black pepper to tomato mixture. Bring to boil
  • Boil steadily uncovered for 50 minutes stirring frequently
  • Stir in chopped peppers Boil for 10-20 minutes more or until it reaches desired consistancy stirring occasionally 
  • Remove from heat and add basil and assorted herbs
  • Spoon 1 Tablespoons lemon juice into each of 6 sterilized pint jars (or 2 Tablespoons in each 3 quart jars)
  • Ladle sauce into jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace
  • Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and screw bands.
  • Process in boiling water canner for 35 minutes (time starts when water returns to boiling)
  • remove jars and cool on wire racks.
The sauce looks gorgeous, smelled gorgeous while cooking 
and tastes amazing.
Note that I pressure canned my sauce at 11pounds of pressure for 15 minutes.

This is a time consuming recipe.
Because I really like the flavor of the sauce, 
I'm willing to take the time to make it
but I think I'll prepare the tomatoes one day
and assemble the sauce on another.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How To Peel a Tomato

Peeling a tomato seems like a tedious task,
but it's actually pretty simple.
First, cut an "X" on the bottom of the tomato.
Not a deep cut, just cutting into the skin.
Then, blanche the tomatoes for 30-60 seconds.
I did mine around 45 seconds on average.
Immediately remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and place them in ice water.
You'll go through a lot of ice if you have a lot of tomatoes,
so it might be a good idea to have a bag of ice on hand.
Once they're cooled (which doesn't take long)
the skins pretty much slide right off.  
It's really that easy!
I also discovered that to peel tomatoes and 
make sauce is an all day project.
You can peel the tomatoes one day
and refrigerate them till the following day 
to save on time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Pressure Canner

I purchased this Presto Pressure canner from Amazon some time ago
after I thoroughly read each review
(OK, maybe not each one since there were a lot, but a good many).

And once I had it at my house
it became apparent that I have a canning phobia.
It does not have its own name on the phobia list but it should.
Eventually the prospect of having wasted $70 for the canner,
not to mention the wasted tomatoes,
prompted me to go ahead and attempt to can and not blow up the house.
 The result?
I managed to can 3 quarts of Roasted Garlic and Pepper Spaghetti Sauce
(it's delish! I'll share the recipe in the future)
 I also realized that I didn't blow up the kitchen
and it doesn't appear that I will kill anyone with botulism either. 
I have since managed to can several quarts and pints of chopped tomato
and 7 jars of red pepper jelly.  
This canning thing is a cinch!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I love fresh salsa in the summer months. 
With 15 tomato plants, 
I have more than enough tomatoes
to make salsa to eat and freeze.
I chopped the tomatoes
removing as many of the seeds as possible.
Then I chop onion.
I don't have any measurements, 
just add the amount that you think looks right based 
on your personal preference.
Same thing with the green peppers.
Then use some fresh cilantro to round it out.
You can freeze this in a freezer bag or
a container approved for freezing.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Here Comes Fall

With the onslaught of Labor Day,
I figured I should get the garden going for fall.
I've never done a fall garden before
and I'm not very good with following suggested planting tips
so we'll see how it goes.
I planted Russian Pickling Cucumbers (my family is addicted to pickles),
Scottish Kale, Cabbage, Pumpkins,
Peas (because while he eats nothing I cook, 
my son will eat peas straight from the garden. I plan on letting him graze)
Butterfly Spinach, Zucchini
and Leeks.  
Zucchini and Leeks aren't fall crop food, 
but what the heck.
We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nature's Pest Management

While I was out picking tomatoes,
I came across Nature's way of controlling hornworms.
The white things are eggs/larvae of a Braconid Wasp.
The wasp lays the eggs on the live caterpillar, 
and the young feed on it.
And it dies.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I came across a recipe for a chocolate zucchini bread and thought
what the heck
I have more zucchini than I know what to do with.
Since my fiance said it was "DELICIOUS"
and "GREAT"
I figured I'd share it here.

2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt
set aside

In medium mixing bowl, beat sugar and eggs until fluffy
add oil and vanilla

add to dry ingredients along with the zucchini and chocolate chips
stir until combined
divide between 2 loaf pans
bake 50-60 minutes or until top is cracked and springy to touch

I think it could have used a few more chocolate chips, other than that it was pretty good.
Goes down nice with a tall glass of ice cold milk!
Check back for other possible zucchini bread recipes as I plan on trying a zucchini pineapple recipe 
and a lemon poppy seed zucchini bread recipe.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Preserving Pumpkins

It might seem a little early to start talking about pumpkins,
but I had some that were ripe.
Actually, I only had 1 ripe one,
but because the pumpkin vines were decimated
I wanted to preserve what I had.
This is a pretty easy method that doesn't require peeling the pumpkin.

First, Cut off the stem and cut the pumpkin in half.
Oh, and preheat the oven to 350

Scoop out the guts with a spoon.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray 
and place the pumpkins flat on the sheet.

Bake at 350 until they're done.  
I don't have a specific time to cook them.
Small pumpkins won't take long, thick pumpkins will.
Basically you want the inside mushy.

Scoop out the pumpkin with a spoon
leaving the shell behind.

Let it cool
then bag it up and freeze.

I was thrilled with how easy this was.
This year, my pumpkin cookies will be made completely from scratch!
And I decided to plant  another hill of pumpkins
(and hope I can keep the squash bugs at bay).
Even though we won't have them for Halloween,
we'll have them for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies.